New Yorker

The Slow Confiscation of Everything #auspol 

The Slow Confiscation of Everything

By Laurie Penny 


A protest against EPA head Scott Pruitt. / Lorie Shaull
These days, the words of the prophets are written in whimsical chalk on the hoardings of hipster latte-mongers: “The end is nigh. Coffee helps.”

 In the days running up to the inauguration of Donald Trump, I saw this sort of message everywhere, and as panic-signals go, it’s oddly palliative. 

The idea that the Western world might soon be a smoking crater or a stinking swamp does, in fact, make me a little more relaxed about the prospect of spending five dollars on a hot drink.  
Fuck it. 

The planet, as we keep telling each other, is on fire. 

Might as well have a nice latte while we wait for the flames to slobber up our ankles. 

When you consider that some desperate barista boiled the entire philosophy of post-Fordist public relations down to its acrid essence, it would be ungrateful not to. 

What have you got to lose? 

Five dollars and your pride, in the short term, but what will those be worth next year? 

Next week? 

Have you looked at the Dow Jones lately? 

Have you turned on the news? 

On second thoughts, best not—just drink your coffee and calm down. 

Look, they’ve drawn a little mushroom cloud in the milk foam. 

It’s quite beautiful, when you think about it. 
The topic of apocalypse comes up a lot these days. 

It’s slipped into conversation as compulsively as you might mention any other potentially distressing disruption to your life plans, such as a family member’s illness, or a tax audit. 

And yet the substance of the conversation has shifted in recent weeks and months from an atmosphere of chronic to acute crisis. 

The end seems to be slightly more nigh than it was last year; we talk about the Trumpocalypse with less and less irony as the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moves the Doomsday clock half a minute closer to midnight. 
Of all the despicable things the runaway ghost train of the Trump administration has done in its first ferocious weeks, the attempt to utterly destroy every instrument of environmental protection is perhaps the most permanent.

 The appointment of fossil fuel tycoons and fanatical climate change deniers to key positions in energy and foreign policy, the immediate reinstitution of the Dakota Access and Keystone pipelines, the promise to pull out of the Paris Climate Pact—all moves crafted to please the oil magnates who helped put him in power—these are changes that will hasten the tick of the time bomb under civilization as we know it. 

Racist laws can eventually be overthrown, and even a cultural backslide toward bigotry and nationalism can be slowly, painfully reversed. 

We don’t get a do-over on climate change. 

The vested interests agitating to strip the planet for parts know that, too—and they plan to profit from this particular apocalypse as hard as they can.
They’re not the only ones eagerly anticipating the end times. 

Apocalyptic thinking has a long and febrile history in Western thought, and it is usually associated with moments of profound cultural change, when people found it all but impossible to envision a future they might live inside. 

The notion of armageddon as something to look forward to crops up time and again at moments of profound social unrest. 

Today, that includes legions of lonely alt-righters celebrating the advent of a new post-democratic, post-civilizational age where men will be real men again, and women will be really grateful. 


This “dark enlightenment” rumbles alongside a massive revival in millenarian end-times fanaticism among the Evangelical Christians who overwhelmingly voted for a man some of them believe is the literal antichrist who will hasten the final return of Jesus and his arse-kicking angels to sweep the righteous to their reward. 

There are many millions of people, especially in the United States, who seem to want an apocalypse—a word whose literal meaning is a great “unveiling,” a moment of calamity in which the murkiest and basest of human terrors will be mercifully swept aside. 

That gentle armageddon, however, looks unlikely to be delivered. 

Frightened, angry human beings have always fantasized about the end of the world—and institutions of power have always profited from that fantasy. 

In fact, as David Graeber notes in Debt: The First 5,000 Years, the ideal psychological culture for the current form of calamity capitalism is an apprehension of coming collapse mated bluntly with the possibility of individual escape. 

An economy driven by debt and fueled by looting and burning the resources that have sustained the species for generations would feel far more monstrous if it weren’t for the lingering suspicion that it might all be in flames tomorrow anyway.

 The world is on fire. 

Might as well build that pipeline. 

Might as well have that coffee.

But what world is on fire? 

The late comedian George Carlin had it right when he reminded us that

 “The planet is fine. The people are fucked.” 

The Earth is resilient, and will stagger on in some form until it is swallowed by the sun some four billion years from now—the world that we envision ending is Western civilization as we have come to understand it, a mere eyeblink in the long species churn of planetary history. 

Apocalyptic thinking has been a consistent refrain as the human species struggles to evolve beyond its worst impulses, but the precise form of the anticipated collapse always changes. 

Those changes are important. 

The catastrophes we are anticipating today are not the catastrophes of thirty years ago, and that distinction matters a great deal.
Climate change is this generation’s calamity, and it is similar to the nuclear threat that nurtured the baby boomers in that it promises a different sort of death from the petty disasters of war, famine, and pestilence—it promises near-total species collapse. 

The past swept away along with the future. 

The deletion of collective memory. 

This is an existential threat more profound than anything humanity has had to reckon with before except in the throes of ecstatic religious millenarianism.

 Rapture, in the Abrahamic understanding, traditionally meant immortality for the species.

 We are the first to really have to wrestle with ultimate species death, extinction in memory as well as being.

 Of course we are afraid. 

We were afraid of the Bomb. 

We’re afraid now, even though many people’s understanding of climate change hasn’t moved past the denial stage.

 It is there, however, that the similarities between the two types of apocalypse end.
Climate change is a different prospect of calamity—not just elementally but morally different from nuclear exchange in a manner which has not been properly dealt with. 

The first difference is that it’s definitely happening. 

The second is that it’s not happening to everyone. 
There will be no definite moment can say that yes, today we are fucked, and yesterday we were unfucked.

For anyone who grew up in the Cold War, the apocalypse was a simple yes-no question: either it was coming, or it wasn’t. 

Many people I know who grew up before the end of the nuclear arms race describe this as oddly freeing: there was the sense that since the future might explode at any point, it was not worth the effort of planning. 

Climate change is species collapse by a thousand cuts. 

There will be no definite moment we can say that yes, today we are fucked, and yesterday we were unfucked. 

Instead the fuckery increases incrementally year on year, until this is the way the world ends: not with a bang, not with a bonfire, but with the slow and savage confiscation of every little thing that made you human, starting with hope.


“In the U.S. we have a very strong sense of apocalypse that comes from puritanism, and it fed nicely into fears about the Bomb,” says Annalee Newitz, author of Scatter, Adapt and Remember: How Humans Will Survive A Mass Extinction.

 “Both kinds of apocalypse are instantaneous and there’s not much you can do about them. 

But climate change is slow and strange, sometimes imperceptible in a human lifetime. 

There are no pyrotechnics. 

Plus, we actually have a chance to intervene and prevent the worst effects of it. 

I think that’s a tough sell for people who grew up with a Bomb paradigm of apocalypse, where there’s either fiery atomic death or you’re fine. 

It’s hard to explain to people that there are probabilities and gradations of apocalypse when it comes to the environment, and there are hundreds of ways to mitigate it, from curbing emissions to preserving natural habitats and changing our agricultural practices. 

In a weird way, I think people are just now getting used to the slow apocalypse, and still don’t know how to deal with it.”
This was the unegalitarian apocalypse millennials inherited. 

If we are to define generations by their political impressions, one thing that everyone who grew up with no memory of the Cold War shares is a specific set of superstitions. 

 One of them was the consensus that neoliberalism had produced the “End of History.” 

For those of us who had not read Francis Fukuyama by the age of five, this came across as a general sense that there was no better society to hope for, no way of living on the horizon that would improve on the one we had been raised to—the nineties and the early aughts were as good as it was going to get.

 From here on in, unless we recycled and remembered to turn off the taps like the singing Saturday afternoon TV puppets urged us to, it would be slow collapse. 

Our parents, relieved of the immediate threat of atomic incineration, seemed oddly calm about that prospect.
Not half as calm, however, as our elected and unelected leaders.

 Because that’s the inconvenient truth, the other inconvenience about the world ending this way: it’s not ending for everyone.
This month, in a fascinating article for The New Yorker, Evan Osnos interviewed several multi-millionaires who are stockpiling weapons and building private bunkers in anticipation of what preppers glibly call “SHTF”—the moment when “Shit Hits The Fan.” 

Osnos observes that the reaction of Silicon Valley Svengalis, for example, is in stark contrast to previous generations of the super-rich, who saw it as a moral duty to give back to their community in order to stave off ignorance, want and social decline. 

Family names like Carnegie and Rockefeller are still associated with philanthropy in the arts and sciences. 

These people weren’t just giving out of the goodness of their hearts, but out of the sense that they too were stakeholders in the immediate future.
Cold War leaders came to the same conclusions in spite of themselves.

 The thing about Mutually Assured Destruction is that it is, well, mutual—like aid, or understanding, or masturbation.

 The idea is that the world explodes, or doesn’t, for everyone. 

How would the Cuban Missile Crisis have gone down, though, if the negotiating parties had known, with reasonable certainty, that they and their families would be out of reach of the fallout? 
How would the Cuban Missile Crisis have gone down if the negotiating parties had known that they and their families would be out of reach of the fallout?

Today’s apocalypse will be unevenly distributed.

 It’s not the righteous who will be saved, but the rich—at least for a while.

 The irony is that the tradition of apocalyptic thinking—religious, revolutionary or both—has often involved the fantasy of the destruction of class and caste. 

For many millenarian thinkers—including the puritans in whose pinched shoes the United States is still sneaking about—the rapture to come would be a moment of revelation, where all human sin would be swept away. 

Money would no longer matter. 

Poor and privileged alike would be judged on the riches of their souls. 

That fantasy is extrapolated in almost every modern disaster movie—the intrepid survivors are permitted to negotiate a new-made world in which all that matters is their grit, their courage, and their moral fiber. 
A great many modern political currents, especially the new right and the alt-right, are swept along by the fantasy of a great civilizational collapse which will wash away whichever injustice most bothers you, whether that be unfettered corporate influence, women getting above themselves, or both—any and every humiliation heaped on the otherwise empty tables of men who had expected more from their lives, economic humiliations that are served up and spat back out as racism, sexism, and bigotry. 

For these men, the end of the world sounds like a pretty good deal. 

More and more, it is only by imagining the end of the world that we can imagine the end of capitalism in its current form. This remains true even when it is patently obvious that civilizational collapse might only be survivable by the elite.
When it was announced that the Doomsday Clock had moved closer to midnight, I panicked for an entire day before realizing that, like a great many people, I didn’t know what the Doomsday Clock actually was.

 In case you were wondering, it’s not actually a real clock. 

It’s a visual representation of certain scientists’ estimation of how close human society is to catastrophe, published on the front cover of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1947—a genius exercise in metonymy and public relations conceived in an age when the problem was not that people were panicking about the end of the world, but that they weren’t panicking enough. 

There is no sympathetic magic at play: if a drunk sub-editor got into the layout program and moved the portentous second hand all the way to Zero Hour on a whim, no rockets would fire of their own accord. 

This apocalypse is still within our power to prevent—and that starts with abandoning the apocalyptic mindset.
It is hard to outline the contours of a future you have never been allowed to imagine—one that is both different from today but accessible from it, too. 

The best we have been permitted to hope for is that the status quo be scraped to the edges of the present for as long as it lasts—a vote to run the knife around the empty jar of neoliberal aspiration and hope there’s enough to cover our asses.

 If people cannot imagine a future for themselves, all they can measure is what they’ve lost. 

Those who believe in the future are left, as they always were, with the responsibility of creating it, and that begins with an act of faith—not just that the future will be survivable, but that it might, somehow, maybe, be an exciting place to live. 
“Every ruthless criticism of current politics should be tied in some way to an example of how we could do things better,” said Newitz. “I realize that’s a tall order, especially when positive visions often feel like wishful thinking rather than direct action. Nevertheless we need to know what we are fighting for to retain our sense of hope. We need maps of where we are going, not just fire to burn it all down.”

Press link for more: The Baffler.com

The New BATTLE PLAN for the Planet’s Climate Crisis #auspol 

The New Battle Plan for the Planet’s Climate Crisis


Calling the Trump energy and environment squad “climate deniers” is like pointing out that your local crew of meth heads has bad teeth.

 It’s true, and it also confuses symptom with disease.
Let’s be clear. 

2016 was the warmest year ever measured, smashing records set in 2015 and 2014. 


Global warming is no longer a worry for the future – we’re in the midst of the greatest crisis humans have yet faced.

 So despite the acknowledgment among some Trump nominees during confirmation hearings that “climate is changing” and “man has had an influence,” when Scott Pruitt, designated to head the EPA, said last year “scientists continue to disagree” about climate change, he was telling a big and consequential lie: Science clearly understands that burning coal and gas and oil is rapidly warming the planet. 

When Energy Secretary pick Rick Perry insisted that climate change is a “contrived, phony mess,” and speculated that the Earth has begun to cool, he was nuts – there are tens of thousands of scientists across the globe who have spent decades narrowing the error bars of their predictions, even as thawing glaciers and rapidly acidifying oceans make it clear they’re correct.



 When Interior designee Ryan Zinke blamed “rising ocean temperatures” for climate change, he wasn’t even being coherent: Why would the oceans suddenly be getting hotter all by themselves? 

Walruses peeing?
But it’s not as if Dr. Pruitt called up Dr. Zinke one day to say, “My reading of the paleoclimatic record makes me think that previous interglacial temperature increases led, not lagged, carbon growth.” And then they didn’t page Dr. Perry on the set of Dancing With the Stars to share their conclusions.
No, something else came before climate denial, and that something is: Fossil Fuel Infatuation. 

These guys know nothing about science, but they love coal and oil and gas – they come from big carbon states like Oklahoma and Texas, and their careers have been lubed and greased with oil money.

 Rex Tillerson, slated to be our secretary of state, has literally never worked for any other cause – he got his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Texas in 1975 and immediately went to work for Exxon as a “production engineer.” When he goes to work for the U.S. government, it will be the second employer he’s ever had.
These men are the fossil-fuel industry – there’s no boundary.

 Pruitt once wrote a letter to the EPA he now will head, lambasting it (entirely incorrectly, as the facts would later show) for overestimating the air pollution that gas drilling was producing in Oklahoma.

 Actually, he sent the letter, but he didn’t write it – that was the work of Devon Energy, a local leader in fracking. 

The company gave him $5,000 for his attorney-general campaign in 2014, part of the $114,000 he collected from energy interests alone. Nothing has dented his crush, including the fact that Oklahoma, until very recently a seismically uninteresting corner of the continent, has become America’s earthquake capital, as fracking wastewater is injected into geological faults. 

Their clinical infatuation runs as deep as the drill bit on the Deepwater Horizon: Cutting oil production is “not acceptable for humanity,” Tillerson has told Exxon shareholders.

 “What good is it to save the planet if humanity suffers?”

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee member Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., points to a chart as he questions Environmental Protection Agency Administrator-designate, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017, during Pruitt’s confirmation hearing before the committee
Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse questions EPA Administrator-designate Scott Pruitt during Pruitt’s January 18th confirmation hearing. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

The moral case for fossil fuels has its roots in the idea that coal, and then oil and gas, transformed civilization.

 Which is true: When we learned, early in the 18th century, to burn coal, it gave each of us in the Western world the equivalent of an entourage of slaves. A barrel of oil, by some calculations, is equal to 23,000 hours of muscle-powered work. 

Suddenly we could move ourselves great distances, and most of us could abandon the farm.

 One could argue whether these were changes for the better; some of our sense of rootlessness and disconnection comes with this freedom. 

But it was transformational – that part of the argument is undeniable.

For Trump’s crew, however, the past is forever prologue. 

If fossil fuel was good in the 18th century, it must be good in the 21st. 

They can’t imagine, for example, that the rest of the world might develop without coal and gas and oil. 

“There are still hundreds of millions, billions of people living in abject poverty around the world,” Tillerson told the Council on Foreign Relations in 2012.

 “They’d love to burn fossil fuels because their quality of life would rise immeasurably, and their quality of health and the health of their children and their future would rise immeasurably.”
This happy picture depends on ignoring the side effects of fossil-fuel burning.

 The biggest study to date shows that 100 million people in developing countries will die from fossil-fuel combustion between now and 2030 – some from the effects of global warming, but more from breathing smoke. 

Beijing closed its schools in mid-December because the smog was too bad to go outside; in New Delhi, an estimated half of the city’s 4.4 million children now have irreversible lung damage. 

That’s why China and India are trying desperately to move away from fossil fuels: China’s coal consumption has begun to slide, and India has announced a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants. 

Oklahoma may still be enamored with fossil fuels, but the rest of the planet is moving on.
And lucky for them, they have an alternative, which is the other thing the Denier-in-Chief and his Cabinet want desperately to ignore: renewable energy, primarily sun and wind. 
All of a sudden clean power is not just available, it’s cheap. 

A spate of headlines in mid-December declared that solar was now in fact the cheapest energy on Earth. The headlines were based on new research by Bloomberg, which showed that for new power from Chile to India to South Africa, “renewables are robustly entering the era of undercutting” fossil-fuel prices.
All of which is to say: If you’re a utility in the developing world, you’re probably building a big solar farm. And if you’re in a hut somewhere that’s never been reached by fossil fuel, you’re almost certainly better off buying a cheap solar panel than you are waiting for the central government to build the wires and poles to your house. The “moral argument” for fossil fuels has collapsed.


View of Xinyi photo-voltaic power station on August 21, 2016 in Songxi, China.

The Xinyi photo-voltaic power station in Songxi, China Feature China/Barcroft Images/Getty

But renewables denial has not collapsed.

It’s now at least as ugly and insidious as its twin sister, Climate Denial.

 The same men who insist that the physicists are wrong about global warming also insist that sun and wind can’t supply our energy needs anytime soon. 

This argument comes in many forms, all of them being outpaced by technology. 

There’s the classic “the sun goes down at night” argument, which ignores the fact that battery storage has begun to fall as steeply in price as solar panels themselves. 

There’s “we need liquid fuels to drive our cars,” which ignores the advent of, say, Tesla. And there’s the idea that renewable technologies are some kind of faddish toys. 

Exxon won’t invest heavily in renewable energy, Tillerson told his shareholders in 2015, because “we choose not to lose money on purpose.”

 In fact, fossil fuel has been among the worst-performing sectors of the stock market for several years; investors are now piling more money into renewables, because that’s clearly where growth will come.

In the long run, Renewables Denial will give way to economics.

 You can tell it’s a scam because they’re using the same language and arguments they used a decade ago, even as the price of a solar panel has dropped 80 percent. 

But that’s where Climate Denial becomes such a dangerous companion. 

The rapidly deteriorating climate means that there is no “long run,” only the urgent need to change much faster than economics will push the transition by itself. 

We have to retire fossil-fueled power plants before their economic lifetime is over – that’s what Obama’s Clean Power Plan does. And we have to keep fossil fuels in the ground to spur the speedier transition to renewables – that’s why blocking the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines were such crucial accomplishments. 

They served notice to investors that there was a lot less easy money left to be made in fossil fuel. (Trump moved to revive both pipelines this week.)
And that is why the Koch brothers and the American Petroleum Institute and other arms of the fossil-fuel industry have played the political game so fiercely. 

They know all about the long run – hell, as good investigative reporting over the past 18 months has demonstrated, Exxon knew about climate change before almost anyone else. 

But the company also knows there are trillions to be made if it can postpone that action for a few more decades, even at the cost of wrecking the planet. 

Every year Exxon issues a new energy forecast, and every year it shows fossil fuels still providing most of the planet’s power by midcentury, never mind the skyrocketing temperature or the plummeting cost of solar. 

Now, Exxon’s accounting will be the nation’s – replacing the mathematics laid out in the Paris Agreement a year ago. Trump may not be able to kill it outright, but he can certainly make sure that we don’t keep our pledges, tempting the rest of the world to backslide.

Exxon Mobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson addresses a keynote speech during the World Gas Conference in Paris on June 2, 2015. 

Then ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson at the 2015 World Gas Conference. Tillerson is slated to be Trump’s secretary of state. ERic Piermont/Getty

Which means that the opposition will need to be savvy and dynamic, focused constantly on keeping the momentum of the energy transition growing, not slowing. Everything depends on pace – only if we can keep renewable power galloping ahead do we have a chance of catching up with climate change. 

So first things first: Mark April 29th on your calendar, because the climate movement will convene in D.C. to show that the election didn’t cancel physics. Politicians need to be reminded, even as they do the bidding of the industry, that the rest of us are watching. 

That march will mark 100 days of the Trump administration; his early surge can’t be avoided, but it can be slowed.

But many of the most consequential battles won’t be in D.C. at all. Instead, look for powerful action around the nation from:
The divestment movement. 

It’s already the largest anti-corporate campaign of its kind in history, and it will need to grow larger, depriving the industry of both capital and social license. 

When protesters took the Standing Rock fight to the lobbies of Wells Fargo and TD Bank branches, they served notice that it’s not just the politicians who need to pay attention – it’s also the money guys.
The Keep It in the Ground campaign. 

Every piece of fossil-fuel infrastructure will have to be contested.

 Since the Keystone fight launched this phase of the battle, campaigners have grown adept at using courts and local governments to block and slow pipelines and coal ports, frack wells and natural-gas terminals. Every month of delay adds new costs; every layer of uncertainty makes it harder for investors to justify. 

Frontline communities have been remarkable at running these fights – the nonviolent discipline of the Standing Rock Sioux has written a dramatic new chapter in the history of political resistance. The rest of us can follow their example.
State and local governments. 

They can lead this energy transition even if Washington won’t. California may emerge as the crucial focus – with the world’s sixth-largest economy, it’s big enough that it can innovate even as D.C. stagnates. New York is in a similar position – between them, the two giant states stand a chance of actually making America great, not with Trumpish nostalgia but with innovation. 

California Gov. Jerry Brown has even talked about putting up climate satellites to replace the ones that NASA may be shutting down. But even the best governors and mayors will need constant pushes from activists – for instance, the Oregon campaigners who last fall turned Portland into the first major U.S. city to ban new fossil-fuel infrastructure.
We won’t win many battles in the White House and on Capitol Hill – in fact, the early months of the new administration will come with many painful defeats as the fossil-fuel industry wish list is adopted.

 Expect federal land to be leased for drilling willy-nilly; expect frack wells to be freed from even minimal regulation. We need to fight every one of these changes, and with Bernie Sanders-level passion. 


That’s because, over time, both Climate and Renewables Denial will take their toll on Trump’s standing.

 People aren’t stupid – with Mother Nature and the electric bill constantly conspiring to spread reality, the backward-looking greed of this wrecking crew will eventually be seen for what it is.
The question, of course, is whether “eventually” will take too long for the planet. We can’t know the answer – only the certainty that the harder we work, the better the odds.

Press link for more: Rollingstone.com

Wind energy creates jobs. #auspol 

US wind energy jobs reach 100,000 according to US DOE
Employment in the US wind energy industry is higher than that at nuclear, natural gas, coal, or hydroelectric power plants according to the DOE. These wind jobs can be found across the nation, with nearly 25 percent of American wind workers being employed in Texas alone. More growth in the industry is possible, according to DOE’s Wind Vision report, with the potential to create 380,000 jobs by 2030.
“Wind means opportunity and job security for over 100,000 Americans” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). “The Department of Energy’s new jobs data underscore the incredible impact of wind power in creating American jobs. Wind workers directly contribute to our nation’s energy independence and economic success story. We’re especially proud of helping America’s veterans find well-paying jobs after their service, employing them at a rate that is 50 percent higher than the national average.”
DOE’s new data validates the jobs growth reported in AWEA’s own annual report. At the end of 2015, AWEA estimated 88,000 Americans were employed in the US wind industry, a 20 percent increase from 2014 levels. Given near-record amounts of wind power under construction and recent wind manufacturing facility expansions in states like Colorado, Florida, Texas, and Wisconsin, AWEA expects wind industry employment grew significantly in 2016.
AWEA’s detailed jobs analysis, including state-by-state breakdowns, will be released this spring as part of the US Wind Industry’s Annual Market Report 2016.

Press link for more: Renewable Energy

Cities can pick up nations’ slack on combating climate change #C40 #auspol 

By Nick Stockton

Mexico City is rebranding itself … as Mexico City. In English, that sounds bizarre. But, for nearly 200 years, the capital’s official name has been Distrito Federal, emphasizing its status as the nation’s political center. That changed this January, when city leaders announced they were changing the city’s name to reflect a wave of changes giving the supermetropolis more autonomy. So, Ciudad de México. Or, per the new logo: CDMX.

The CDMX logo flaps on skinny rectangular pennants over shoppers wading through the central city’s busy avenues. It is stenciled on police pickup trucks, their beds filled with smiling, relaxed — albeit riot-geared and rifle-toting — cops. The mayor even ordered the city’s taxicab owners to paint the entire fleet of 140,000 taxis pink and white, CDMX’s official colors. And those cabs weave around accordion-bellied MetroBuses bearing giant CDMX decals.
The branding is especially thick in the city’s museum and monument-filled central district. Especially around the towering Hilton Reforma Hotel. And especially during the last week of November, when the hotel hosted the C40 Mayors Summit, a conference focused on how cities are fighting climate change. Regardless of what their home nations are doing — in spite of Trump’s election, Brexit, and other geopolitical spasms — many of them are pushing forward.
So, when Andrew Steer, president of the World Resources Institute, says “the battle for climate change will be won or lost in the cities of the world” to a packed conference room at the C40 summit, he’s only partly playing to his audience. His declaration came after C40’s executive director Mark Watts had presented the findings from Deadline2020, a 100-plus-page C40 study detailing how the organization’s 90 affiliated cities can, and are, taking rapid, impactful actions to keep the Earth from warming to the point of catastrophe. As Watts explained — his speech punctuated by a jarring tick-tock noise playing over the PA — these cities need to peak their emissions by 2020.
Deadline2020 is based on goals set out in the Paris Agreement, a U.N. treaty signed by (as of this writing) 117 countries to keep the average global temperature from rising to 2 degrees C above preindustrial levels. Actually, the Paris Agreement calls for that temperature rise — which is already happening, by the way — to stay as close to 1.5 degrees C as possible. Deadline2020 aims for that more ambitious goal.

In that frame, the next four years are critical. Climate scientists talk about “locked-in warming.” This is warming that is already destined to happen because of present emissions levels. If the C40 cities want to meet that 1.5 degrees C goal, its members need to collectively cut the average emissions of city-dwelling folks from 5.1 tons to 2.1 per person by 2020. (According to C40’s own assessment of the atmosphere’s current inventory of greenhouse gases, the world is already locked-in for 1.2 degrees C of warming. Other, more pessimistic, studies say the 1.5 degrees C goal is already blown.)
If they succeed, the cities of C40 will have contributed 40 percent of the reductions necessary to meet the most ambitious goal of the Paris Agreement. Come hell or high water, their home nations are largely responsible for the other 60 percent. So in that frame, “the battle for climate change will be won or lost in the cities of the world,” isn’t entirely true.
Still, as author William Sweet writes in his new book Climate Diplomacy from Rio to Paris: “If you are in a car hurtling toward a cliff or brick wall … You slam on the brakes and hope for the best.”
One big battle
Climate change–fighting actions always come down to two questions:
How much can you do?

How fast can you do it?

Those metrics are usually inversely related. Depending on income, an individual person can immediately take steps to fight climate change: Buy a Tesla, install solar panels, recycle a cardboard box, install double-paned windows, plant a tree. None of those actions, obviously, comes close to saving the world.
At the other end of the scale are nations, which can create society-wide changes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But, time wise …
Just look at the pace of climate diplomacy. The U.N. first agreed that climate change was dangerous in 1992, at the Rio de Janeiro summit. It took nearly two whole decades for them to agree upon a numerical value for how much global warming counted as dangerous — 2 degrees C, in Copenhagen — and another six before signing an agreement to take action before the world reaches such dangerous warming (the aforementioned Paris Agreement, ratified this September in New York).
And while many countries have made commitments to cut their emissions — the U.S. released the Clean Power Plan to cut coal, China is rolling out cap and trade, India intends to build the world’s largest solar project — they still haven’t agreed on how to do basic stuff, like agree on a uniform, independently verifiable way of counting how much each country currently emits.
And that’s not to mention the Paris Agreement’s uncertain future. President-elect Donald Trump has sworn to withdraw the U.S.’s commitment to the international coalition, and kill the Clean Power Plan. That doesn’t necessarily knife the agreement, but it certainly damages the good faith that negotiators, U.S. and abroad, spent years building in order to get the Paris Agreement to the table.
Cities can’t save the Paris Agreement, or the world, on their own. But they can do a lot. And they can do it a lot faster, and a lot more reliably, than nations. Look at Mexico City. In 1992, it was the most polluted city on the planet. For the week of the C40 conference, the air quality was in the moderate zone — not great, but not the worst. This is thanks to laws limiting when drivers can drive, regulations forcing its taxi and bus fleets to go green, and an emphasis on making streets and neighborhoods more bike and pedestrian-friendly. All of those things, of course, also lower the city’s carbon footprint.
And cities’ environmental decisions don’t happen in a void. Urban areas are big economic players — Mexico City contributes around 16 percent of Mexico’s annual GDP — and their investments send ripples through global markets. Another example: China’s Shenzhen has begun electrifying its fleet of taxis and buses, and plans to convert private vehicles as well. That’s 15 million people whose daily travels won’t create a demand for oil.
C40 Cities came about after then-mayor of London Ken Livingstone convened mayors from 17 other cities that were already taking action on climate action. He envisioned a network in which metropoli could optimize their individual efforts by sharing ideas, data, and mistakes. Further, he and the other mayors thought the group should include 20 cities from the northern hemisphere, and 20 from the south — the 40 in C40. It’s since grown. Members include the obvious (Portland), the influential (New York), the sprawling (Johannesburg), and the growing (Addis Ababa). Between 2005 and 2016, they have taken more than 11,000 total actions to emit less, mitigate the stuff that is emitted, and fortify themselves against threats like higher tides, worse floods, and longer droughts.
Those actions aren’t always sexy, but they are tangible. Mexico City’s double-articulated MetroBuses — which move over a million people each day, keeping tens of thousands of tons of greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere — are a rare ooh-worthy example.
But many more are projects only a city planner could love. At the C40 summit, a ceremony held in the neoclassical courtyard of the Palacio de Minería celebrated the best sustainability projects from the previous year: Kolkata received thunderous applause for getting 60 to 80 percent better at sorting its solid waste; Sydney and Melbourne took a joint bow for prioritizing green building codes; Copenhagen earned its ovation for tackling its intermittent flooding issues (due to both sea-level rise and heavy rains) by installing what are essentially grass strips along its curbs.
Individually, each of these actions amount to decimal points against the total number of cuts needed to keep the Earth from warming 1.5 degrees C. In aggregate, they do a lot. Especially along with the 11,000 other actions taken since 2005. According to the Deadline2020 report, the C40 cities need about 14,000 new actions before 2020 to do their part in averting catastrophic warming.


Why cities?
I am cynical. So as I went from meeting to interview to plenary to more meetings at C40, I was bothered by a number mentioned in the Deadline 2020 report. It estimates that C40 cities will collectively invest more than $375 billion between now and 2020 on those 14,000 remaining actions. I could not help but wonder what was in it for the cities.
When I posed this question to Clover Moore, Lord Mayor of Sydney, she told me that cities have to spend huge amounts of money anyway, and often the green solutions are better for the city’s bottom line — transportation projects don’t just move people, they move people’s money. Greener cities also attract demographics that raise a city’s profile: millennials, creative class, young professionals; pick your buzzword, they like clean cities, and cities like them.
So, that sort of answers the why, but not the how. How do cities not get bogged down in the political divisiveness that has historically stalled climate action? “In higher levels of government, oftentimes the debates are philosophical,” Muriel Bowser, mayor of Washington, D.C., told me during a sit-down chat between plenaries. Nations are big enough, and their economies diverse enough, that their elected officials can exhaust years bickering over the science. “A mayor doesn’t have that as an option,” says Bowser. “You have to run the transportation systems, pick up trash, make sure kids get to school, keep the police policing, and firefighters fighting fires.” Climate change is already pressuring many of those civil services. Cities demand action.
And not only have these cities spent over a decade trading ideas (and mistakes), they have already gotten their member cities to agree on a standardized emissions accounting system: the Global Protocol for Community-Scale Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventories (GPC). Nearly every C40 city reports its emissions using this standard. “The collection of carbon data is fundamental to everything we do at C40,” says Thomas Bailey, an energy analyst with the organization.
There’s another facet to the “why” of cities taking the lead on climate action. But first, quick question: Can you name, without calling on Google, the strongest hurricane ever recorded? (Hint: It happened last year.) No? Probably because it (Hurricane Patricia, with high winds of 215 miles per hour) made landfall in a sparsely populated part of Mexico, killing nobody.
Now imagine if that coastline had been citified. In the U.S., the odds of such a catastrophe are increasing, as coastal urban areas grow faster than anywhere else. Storms and sea-level rise aren’t the only threats. Landlocked Mexico City gets flooded annually by severe thunderstorms. And cities absorb populations when drought, famine, and other disasters make rural places uninhabitable. A city that doesn’t take climate change seriously is courting disaster.

Mexico City is filled with mementos of disaster. About a mile down the road from the Hilton Reforma is the gigantic Metropolitan Cathedral. Behind it, there used to be a large, block-size lump that locals called “island of the dogs,” after the strays that would gather there when storms flooded the surrounding streets. In the late 1970s, electrical workers were digging new lines through the lump when they hit something big: a 10 and a half foot diameter stone disk, depicting the dismembered Aztec goddess Coyolxauhqui. Over the next several years, archaeologists excavated the site to reveal the Templo Mayor, a major Aztec religious complex with a double-headed pyramid as its centerpiece.
Before Ciudad de México, before Distrito Federal, before Hernán Cortés tore down the Templo Mayor and everything around it, this place was Tenochtitlan, capital of the Aztec civilization. Mexico City’s living inhabitants are regularly confronted with reminders of what their city once was. Cortés and climate change are different kinds of disasters, but every city eventually gets turned into something else. Some are lucky enough to choose what they become.

Press link for more: Grist.org

Scientists identify climate ‘tipping points’#Auspol 

In the new study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), the scientists analysed the climate model simulations on which the recent 5th Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports are based.

They found evidence of 41 cases of regional abrupt changes in the ocean, sea ice, snow cover, permafrost and terrestrial biosphere. Many of these events occur for global warming levels of less than two degrees, a threshold sometimes presented as a safe limit. However, although most models predict one or more abrupt regional shifts, any specific occurrence typically appears in only a few models.

“This illustrates the high uncertainty in predicting tipping points,” says lead author Professor Sybren Drijfhout from Ocean and Earth Science at the University of Southampton. “More precisely, our results show that the different state-of-the-art models agree that abrupt changes are likely, but that predicting when and where they will occur remains very difficult. Also, our results show that no safe limit exists and that many abrupt shifts already occur for global warming levels much lower than two degrees,” he adds.
Examples of detected climate tipping include abrupt shifts in sea ice and ocean circulation patterns, as well as abrupt shifts in vegetation and marine productivity. Sea ice abrupt changes were particularly common in the climate simulations. However, various models also predict abrupt changes in Earth system elements such as the Amazon forest, tundra permafrost and snow on the Tibetan plateau.

“Interestingly, abrupt events could come out as a cascade of different phenomena,” adds Victor Brovkin, a co-author from Max Planck Institute for Meteorology (MPI-M). “For example, a collapse of permafrost in Arctic is followed by a rapid increase in forest area there. This kind of domino effect should have implications not only for natural systems, but also for society.”
“The majority of the detected abrupt shifts are distant from the major population centres of the planet, but their occurrence could have implications over large distances.” says Martin Claussen, director of the MPI-M and one of the co-authors. “Our work is only a starting point. Now we need to look deeper into mechanisms of tipping points and design an approach to diagnose them during the next round of climate model simulations for IPCC.”

Press link for more: South Hampton University

Wellcome Trust loses millions as its fossil fuel investments plunge in value #Auspol

Medical charity sold off two-thirds of its investments in Shell but lost an estimated £175m in the last year due to falling share prices in the fossil fuel sector.

The Wellcome Trust’s investments in fossil fuel companies have lost an estimated £175m in the last year, due to sharp falls in share prices. Research by the Guardian shows the medical charity has sold off two-thirds of its holding in Shell but also increased its investment in the fastest falling of its stocks, mining giant BHP Billiton, by 8%.
The Wellcome Trust is the world’s second-biggest non-governmental funder of medical research but has been the focus of a Guardian campaign asking the Trust to sell its fossil fuel investments, which today stand at an estimated £370m.

Current fossil fuel reserves are already several times greater than could be burned while keeping below the internationally agreed target of 2C of global warming. But coal, oil and gas companies continue to explore for new reserves. The Keep it in the Ground campaign argues that financing such companies is inconsistent for an organisation dedicated to improving health, given that a recent landmark report concluded climate change threatens to undermine half a century of progress in global health.
The Wellcome Trust – which funds a range of research into diseases such as cancer, malaria and Ebola – invests in four major fossil fuel companies, all of which have seen large falls in their share prices in the last year. BHP Billiton’s share price slid by 45%, Shell’s by 30%, Rio Tinto’s by 29% and BP by 21%.
Bill McKibben, founder of the global fossil fuel divestment campaign which has seen companies, universities, churches, cities and philanthropic organisations around the world divest, said the Wellcome Trust’s failure to divest from fossil fuels meant it had lost money that could have funded its programmes.

“It’s sad that the Wellcome Trust is fine with drilling the Arctic and building vast new coal mines; and it’s sad, too, that their ability to finance their fine work suffers from this myopia,” said McKibben. “I’m sure they’ll wise up eventually, but for the sake of the planet one hopes it happens sooner rather than later.”
Press link for more: Damian Carrington | theguardian.com

Apocalypse Soon: 9 Terrifying Signs of Environmental Doom & Gloom #Auspol 

Rising sea levels, earthquake threats and more reasons the world as we know it might be ending
Between natural disasters and climate change, the environment can be a pretty terrifying thing to think about. Don’t think so? Here are 9 indications of looming disaster to keep you awake at night:
1. The Pacific Northwest, and the Disaster That Will Destroy It

A recent story in The New Yorker depicted in horrifying detail how an earthquake, followed by a tsunami, will – at some point to come – hit Seattle, Portland and the rest of the Pacific Northwest. The effects will be, in a word, catastrophic. 

Need more reasons to freak out? The earthquake’s cycle is roughly 243 years. We’re now 315 years into that cycle. That’s not to say we’re due, exactly, or that the quake can be predicted with precision. But it might be time to start preparing before America’s chillest area gets destroyed.
2. The Continuing Psychological Fallout From Fukushima
Speaking of earthquakes and the tsunamis that follow them, the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant in 2011 continues to wreak havoc on survivors – though not necessarily in the way you might think. A new study published in the science journal The Lancet found that “evacuees were found to be almost five times more likely than average to have suffered psychological distress.” The same study found that while survivors’ exposure to radiation does not suggest many will face increased rates of cancer, many of those survivors do suffer from post-traumatic stress, depression and feelings of stigmatization. The study found similar psychic tolls on those who survived the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown. 
3. Deepwater Horizon: Still Oozing
It’s been more than five years since the largest maritime oil spill ever, and the oil continues to ooze in the wetlands just south of New Orleans. “One day, a patch of the wetland is green and lush, the next it’s drenched in thick, noxious goo,” ScienceNews reported in April. “It’s a haunting vestige of North America’s largest marine oil disaster.”
The Deepwater Horizon oil rig was owned and operated by BP, who recently settled all federal and state lawsuits resulting from the spill for $18.7 billion. The settlement, and relatively low oil prices, have hit BP’s bottom line hard this year, as the company posted a $5.8 billion loss in the second quarter. The explosion, and the 87 days of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico that followed, have cost BP nearly $54 billion in total. But the environmental costs will be with us for generations.
4. Great Pacific Garbage Patch
There is a ton of plastic in our oceans – millions of metric tons of it, actually. A study released in February found that every year, about 8 million metric tons of plastic get dumped into oceans worldwide, and that number is likely to go up. (For much more background on this disturbing truth, see Rolling Stone’s 2009 feature “An Ocean of Plastic.”)
The problem has gotten so bad that there’s actually something called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – also known as the Pacific trash vortex – which is more or less exactly what it sounds like. Although it doesn’t actually look like a nightmarish trash island from space, the phenomenon should be worrisome to all of us. Microplastics mix with larger debris items to make the water into a kind of “soup” that can be lethal for marine life.
5. Rising Sea Levels
The Republic of Maldives is made up of about 1,200 islands off the coast of India, most of which are uninhabited. It is also ground zero for the direct effects of climate change and rising sea levels. In 2004, the country was devastated by the tsunami that wreaked havoc over the Indian subcontinent. Though that event wasn’t linked directly to climate change, it showed just how vulnerable this island nation is to environmental disaster.
The Maldives are only about two meters above sea level, and as polar ice caps melt and sea levels rise there’s fear that the country could simply sink into the ocean. Back in 2009, the Maldivian government held a cabinet meeting underwater in protest during the Copenhagen climate conference. If ocean levels rise by three feet, the country could be almost completely underwater by 2100.

6. Drought in California
Sometimes you have too much water, sometimes too little. We’re four years into California’s drought and there’s no telling when it will end. The problem has gotten so bad that thousands of residents in California’s Central Valley have no running water. Andrew Lockman, manager of the county’s Office of Emergency Services, told Mother Jones that as of July, 5,433 people didn’t have running water, and that many of the hardest hit are poor. “Most of those individuals live in East Porterville, a small farming community in the Sierra Foothills,” that story reported. “East Porterville is one of the poorest communities in California: over a third of the population lives below the federal poverty line, and 56 percent of adults didn’t make it through high school.”

7. Mass Extinction on the Way?
A new study finds that Earth is facing a sixth mass extinction that human beings are responsible for. The worst mass extinction in the planet’s history happened 250 million years ago and killed off 96 percent of marine species and 70 percent of land species. Now, we’re losing mammals species at “20 to 100 times the rate of the past,” as the Washington Post put it. “These estimates reveal an exceptionally rapid loss of biodiversity over the last few centuries, indicating that a sixth mass extinction is already under way,” the authors of the study conclude.
8. Climate Change Is Already Making the World More Dangerous
The Pentagon recently issued a report to Congress on the effects climate change is having on security worldwide, and the findings are not encouraging. “Global climate change will have wide-ranging implications for U.S. national security interests over the foreseeable future because it will aggravate existing problems – such as poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership, and weak political institutions – that threaten domestic stability in a number of countries,” the report states.
Some scholars have even argued that resource scarcity due to climate change is partly – though obviously not entirely – to blame for the Syrian civil war and the rise of ISIS. An extreme drought from 2007 to 2010 led about 1.5 million Syrians to migrate from rural areas into cities, worsening tensions with the government of Bashar al-Assad.  
9. Scientists Aren’t Being Honest About How Screwed We Are
Everything about climate change is depressing, but, bizarrely, many scientists often couch their findings in ways that don’t clarify just how awful the situation truly is. That’s what journalist David Roberts argued in a post for Vox this May that laid out the various pressures – professional, political, social – that lead experts to all too often tell politicians and the public at large what they want to hear, rather than the terrible truth.
Whether researchers build in overly optimistic (read: impossible) levels of cooperation between countries into their models, or rely on technology that doesn’t yet exist to solve our problems, the result, says Roberts, is “that no one has much incentive to break the bad news.”
Every day the world doesn’t end in an apocalypse of floods and earthquakes, it gets easier for us to think the planet is basically fine. That means that things are very likely going to get worse before they get any better.

Press link for more: John Knefel | rollingstone.com

The New Economics of Climate Change. #Auspol

The twentieth century was a terrible time to be born a blue whale. After 1926, when seagoing factory vessels were introduced, the population plummeted, and by the early seventies only a few hundred remained. Attempts at conservation met with limited success, and it seemed that the whale’s days were numbered. The Japanese and Russians, in particular, continued to aggressively hunt the docile mammals, well aware that such rapacity would result in their extinction. In 1973, a creative economist named Colin W. Clark decided to take financial analysis to its logical conclusion. He posed the question of which method—hunting the whales to oblivion and investing the profits in stocks, or fishing the population sustainably—would yield the most money in the long term. The answer: hunt the whales to extinction and invest all the proceeds in the market.
Though it might at first appear that the authors of a new financial report with the sobering title “Investing in a Time of Climate Change” are analogous to the Japanese and Russians in this story, they are, in fact, equivalent to Colin W. Clark, holding up a quantitative mirror to a fundamentally existential problem. Written for the world’s “superfiduciaries”—sovereign wealth and pension funds, foundations, and endowments—the report, published by the international consulting firm Mercer, is predictably dispassionate. Future temperature scenarios are discussed in the abstract and Latinate language of a medical diagnosis (“climate change poses portfolio risks”), and summary investment recommendations are made in what the psychoanalytic theorist Felix Guattari once described as the “sedative discourse” of our contemporary era. (“Only developed market global equity has a minimum negative impact, regardless of the scenario,” the preparers advise.) In other words, the document, like most other financial accounts of its kind, would be incredibly boring to read if it weren’t for the fact it is describing the apocalypse.

The report is not the first to try to quantify the investment impacts of various climate-change scenarios—reports from Deutsche Bank, the Risky Business Project, the Stern Review, and many others are floating around—but it is, to date, the most comprehensive from an asset-allocation perspective. Breaking climate-risk management out into four major factors (denoted by the acronym TRIP, which stands for technology, resource availability, impact, and policy), the authors recommend that long-term investors “consider hedging and weighting changes” and “focus on risks and opportunities across and within asset classes.” “They really view it as risk mitigation,” Chris Davis, the senior program director at the sustainability consultancy Ceres, told me. “If climate trashes the economy, they’re not going to be able to meet their pension-fund obligations.”
The sheer volume of global institutional holdings can be hard to fully comprehend. According to a 2014 report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a body that works with thirty-four of the world’s economies to promote shared goals, their primary institutional investors held $92.6 trillion in assets in 2013. To put this number in perspective, the combined G.D.P. of the O.E.C.D.’s member countries that year was $47.3 trillion. (The market capitalization of ExxonMobil, Enemy No. 1 in the fight against accelerating climate change, is only roughly $344 billion.) When most people think of the global financial system, they think of the investment banks, the hedge funds, and the distressed-asset investment firms. These are the frenetic first-movers in the market, the players who most profit from uncertainty and panic. Pension funds prefer much longer time horizons. They eschew long-term uncertainty, and in this they are the most obvious financial allies of those who are working to curb climate change. “Their scale and power is unprecedented in the history of capitalism,” John Fullerton, the founder of the nonpartisan think tank Capital Institute, told me. “But the potential of that is not being realized, because they’ve been largely put into a passive asset-allocation position.”
A perhaps counterintuitive finding of the analysis is that a two-degree Celsius rise over preindustrial times need not, according to the authors, “have negative return implications for long-term diversified investors at a total portfolio level.” This is not to say that assets wouldn’t need to be reallocated. Under such a scenario, the analysts expect gains in “infrastructure, emerging market equity, and low-carbon industry sectors,” which is another way of saying that limiting climate change to a two-degree Celsius rise would require such enormous investments in clean energy—Ceres has called for an annual investment of a “clean trillion”—that it would be hard not to profit as an intelligent first-mover in this market. Losers like coal, the returns of which, according to the report, “could fall by anywhere between 18% and 74% over the next 35 years,” should be jettisoned to make room for new investments in renewables, which “could see average annual returns increase by between 6% and 54%” in the same period. Even if the world ends up exceeding the two-degree limit (a result that appears increasingly likely: according to the World Bank, we are already locked into a one-and-a-half-degree increase), the report’s authors expect, at some point, a wholesale run for the low-carbon doors, what Anthony Hobley, the C.E.O. of the nonprofit climate-and-finance think tank Carbon Tracker, described in an interview as an inevitable “come-to-Jesus moment.”

In a time of accelerating climate change, an increasingly volatile reality will eventually come up against the limits of modern portfolio theory. The definition of fiduciary duty is therefore starting to expand, to include not only traditional and largely passive investment policy but also active stewardship of global average temperature. This is an extraordinary paradigm shift in institutional investing. Last year, a coalition of larger and more forward-looking funds, including BlackRock, CalPERS, PensionDanmark, and Cathay Financial Holdings, representing twenty-four trillion dollars in assets, issued a statement calling on government leaders to provide “stable, reliable and economically meaningful carbon pricing that helps redirect investment commensurate with the scale of the climate change challenge,” as well as develop a plan “to phase out subsidies for fossil fuels.” This begs the question: Why do we need these leviathan institutional investors—historically the most passive and conservative players in the global economy—to tell us to take action that we know is both imperative and dangerously belated?

Past performance does not predict future returns” is the disclaimer on the back of almost any investment prospectus, and yet the entire concept of business-as-usual energy production would seem to promise that it does. Implicit in ExxonMobil’s or Chevron’s long-term business model—and share price—is a rise in global temperature far beyond any average our current civilization could withstand. “The tragedy and impending catastrophe is that we’re waking up at the very moment when it’s already starting to be too late for our actions to mean anything,” Bob Massie, the initiator of the Investor Network on Climate Risk, told me. Though it can seem cognitively dissonant, casting global climate change in the language of future financial returns can be a novel way to model hope.
In 1975, as it became ever clearer that, under business-as-usual scenarios, many pelagic whale species would be doomed to a rapid extinction, a popular movement emerged to shut the whalers down. Children, adults, politicians, and even businessmen marched and held up signs, and planted them on their lawns. They affixed bumper stickers to the backs of their cars that read simply and emphatically: SAVE THE WHALES. After years of political pressure, and a burgeoning cultural sense that the whales were too intelligent and sentient to destroy, an international moratorium on whaling was declared. To read Mercer’s report, which is not the first of its kind and most certainly won’t be the last, is to get used to the idea that the whales we are trying to save this time are us.

Press link for more: Katie Lederer | newyorker.com

Lord Stern: ‘Why Are We Waiting? The Urgency & Promise of Tackling Climate Change’

If we continue with our reckless burning of fossil fuels, there will be widespread war and conflict this century, warns Lord Nicholas Stern, the distinguished chairman of the Grantham Institute on climate change, whilst speaking before a packed auditorium at the London School of Economics on Wednesday.
Former chief economist at the World Bank, and author of a seminal paper on the economics of climate change, Stern certainly understands a thing or two about risk.

“Two centuries of scientific enquiry indicate that the risks from a changing climate over the next hundred years are immense. There is a strong possibility that hundreds of millions of people would have to move. History tells us that this carries serious risks of severe and extended conflict.”

“So, the science has given us the most difficult problem we could possibly have,” argues Stern. And, since his landmark paper came out nearly 10 years ago:
“The science has got riskier, emissions have gone up faster than we thought. And, the effects are coming through, like the melting of the Arctic ice, much quicker than we imagined. Both the science and the risks look far more worrying.”

In order to come up with a solution, Stern says that it is critical to appreciate the scale of the problem.
Each ton of carbon dioxide that it emitted into our atmosphere stays there for thousands of years. And, owing to the accumulative effect of burning oil, gas and coal since the dawn of the Industrial Age, the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere has now shot past record highs. CO2 acts like giant blanket heating up the planet.
World temperatures have already risen by nearly one degree celsius, and according to the United Nations, our world is currently on track to warm by more than four degrees celsius by the turn of this century.
A 4C temperature rise will usher in changes not seen since the last Ice Age.
“So, the stakes that we are playing for are immense,” says Stern.

Press link for more: Alko Stevenson | huffingtonpost.com

We Could Power Entire World on Renewables by 2025, Says Global Apollo Program #Auspol

The vision is simple, the cost would be eye-watering, and the result could stop the growing threat from burning fossil fuels in its tracks.
The authors of an initiative called the Global Apollo Program say that, given the required high level of investment, it should be possible within 10 years to meet electricity demand with reliable wind and/or solar power that is cheaper—in every country—than power based on coal.
They say the scale of ambition needed to produce “baseload” power from renewable energy that is generated consistently to meet minimum demand matches that which sent the first humans to the Moon in 1969—at a cost, in today’s prices, of about $230 billion.
Each country involved in the Global Apollo Program would be expected to contribute at least 0.02 percent of its gross domestic product—the total value of its economy—for 10 years to finance research, development and demonstration with an annual boost of $22.9 billion.
The seven authors of the program include Sir David King, former chief scientist to the UK government; Lord Martin Rees, a former president of the Royal Society, the UK’s national academy of science; Lord John Browne, a former CEO of the energy giant BP; and the economist Lord Nicholas Stern, who led the team that published the 2006 Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change.
Irreparable damage
To avoid irreparable damage to the planet, they argue, world governments’ agreement to limit the Earth’s temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels demands an absolute limit on the total accumulated CO2 that can be produced. On present trends, that limit will be breached by 2035.
To reduce our annual output of CO2 as urgently as we must, carbon-free energy will rapidly have to become cheaper to produce than energy based on coal, gas and oil. The major scientific and technological research program required will demand the best minds in the world and the best science.

Press link for more: Alex Kirby | ecowatch.com